Player introductions took longer than normal at Canyon High on Wednesday night.
The school’s public address announcer called out each teams’ subs before moving on to the starting fives.
It was appropriate. Canyon needed everyone.
The Cowboys played the final two minutes of a wacky second half without three usual starters and rode Daisy Cardenas’ hot hand to a 56-50 win over Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in the first round of the CIF Division 2 state playoffs.
Cardenas scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and hit a 3-pointer that tied the score with 1:42 to play after Rachel Bowers and Talia Taufaasau fouled out.
Cardenas’ free throw seconds later put Canyon ahead for good, 50-49, as backup point guard Krystal Amato made four free throws in the final minute to seal a date at No. 1 seed Orangewood Academy of Garden Grove on Saturday.
“It was definitely a whole team effort there at the end,” said Bowers, who scored 13 points before fouling out with 2:09 to play.
Taufaasau picked up her fifth foul one minute into the fourth quarter, leaving ball-handling duties to Amato, who proved up to the task.
She wasn’t the only one.
With Canyon up three and 30 seconds to play, backup center Shauna Van Grinsven pulled down a back-breaking defensive rebound.
“That was unbelievable,” Canyon coach Jessica Haayer, who was also missing forward Gabriela Sanchez (ankle injury), said praising Van Grinsven’s effort.
The Cowboys were up. They were down. They found a way.
Has Haayer ever been part of a stranger win?
“No. No. Yes. I don’t know,” she said. “All the playoffs, I feel have been like this. I swear to god, I have three wrinkles on my forehead now. I used to only have one.”
Canyon’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA final Saturday against Valencia went down to the wire. The Cowboys lost by five, dropping a second straight sectional final.
But, like last season, the Cowboys rebounded with a win in the state playoffs.
Last year’s came by 20 points. Wednesday night’s win came by way of a crazy second half.
Canyon used a 12-0 second-quarter run to build a 22-18 lead at the break.
But things unraveled in the third.
Bishop Montgomery outscored the Cowboys 21-12 and Taufaasau picked up her fourth foul in the final five seconds, shortly before the Knights took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Then Cardenas heated up, and Canyon made its move.
Cowboy Selasi Mawugbe finished with nine points, while Alaina Garcia added seven.